We remember wholeness so readily because we don’t have far to look for it. It is always within us, usually as a vague feeling or memory left over from when we were children. But it is a deeply familiar memory, one you recognize immediately as soon as you feel it again, like coming home after being away a long time. When you are immersed in doing without being centered, it feels like being away from home. And when you reconnect with being, even for a few moments, you know it immediately. You feel like you are at home no matter where you are and what problems you face. – Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living
The Christmas Story of Jesus being born to Mary (a virgin, as you might have heard) and Joseph (not the baby-daddy, you might have also heard) is an absolutely beloved and magical story of stars, cows, and the sweet sight of a newborn baby being laid in a hay filled trough (possibly?) that is usually for feeding animals. I don’t think how it might have actually happened would be probably all that desirable to see or recreate. This poor young woman is pregnant as a house traveling on foot (or the oh so cozy back of a donkey) to register and be counted in a place that was really not home. She was going to have this child far from her mom, aunts, sisters, cousins to encourage, help, and take care of her. This cannot have been how she wanted this to go. No one wants to give birth in a barn. I don’t think even cows like to give birth in a barn. Giving birth today, with all of our amazing technology, still comes with great risks to the mom & baby. It is no small deal to get another human being out of your body, people.
I don’t know that we need to retell all of the most miserable details of this story every year. But, I think it is worth remembering that the story of Christmas isn’t one of life going according to plans, at all. I’m sure Joseph would have rather been the actual father. I’m sure Mary wished the whole timing of giving birth would have been more within her control. This was not an ideal situation. AND YET. God showed up in the midst of the whole mess. God showing up did not bring Mary’s sisters & mom to help take care of her. God showing up did not make the situation all that much more comfortable, safe, or even convenient. I imagine you are all thinking “but what about all the shepherds & wise men being drawn to the child by the star????” What about the angel Gabriel? I know, I know, I know. But In The Moment — I don’t imagine it felt quite so magical.
In reflection and with the benefit of knowing the whole story, we say it was a magical and holy night.
I know that some of you are in the midst of life not going as planned, at all. Or maybe you are working really hard to make sure the holidays go as planned. Remember that God shows up in the midst of all the mess and chaos, just as much as in the perfectly clean house and festive meal. God’s presence does not fix a car, take away cancer, or impeach a President. I don’t think God is in charge of meddling with our external situations. All that is our work to do. God’s power lies in transforming, and dwelling, and staying present with us from the inside, no matter how messed up or perfect the outsides might appear. And we only know this by taking a moment….checking in and reconnect with our inner being, if even for a moment.
So, right where you are – sit up. Take a big breath, stretch your face. Feel the floor underneath your feet and the chair underneath your bottom. Trust that they are holding you up and you don’t need to hold yourself up. Turn your attention inward. Re-tune your senses. Like going from a well-lit room to a dark room, let your eyes & ears & mind adjust. Start to peel through the layers of you that relate to everyone and everything else. Like taking off your hat or coat, peel through the layers of you that relate to your family, friends, your work or places of responsibility until you are left with you relating to you, right here and now.
And from that space bring up gratitude for all that makes it possible for you to be HERE, right NOW. Gratitude for your physical health; despite aches and pains and frustrations with your body, you are healthy and strong enough to show up for this moment. Turn your hands over palm face up. Gratitude for your mental health; despite anxiety and stress, despite distractions and conflicts you were able to make the decision to show up – right now. And aim your heart out and up a little bit. Gratitude for any sense of spiritual health. That despite some really hard days, maybe some grief, depression, loneliness, or fear; despite all that there was also enough levity and momentum to Show Up, right here and now. With all that gratitude & resilience that is strong in you, send out some love, hope, and courage for all the people and the places, all the situations that are struggling for such health today. Even if you kind of feel like one of them.
Peace on your head,
***Did you know that there is a Daily Bread Yoga Saturday Morning Retreat on Saturday, December 30th, 9a.m.-noon at Philo Presbyterian Church?*** It’s $20, if that works for you. Know that while it isn’t 3 hours of yoga it is about 2+. You need to be able to get up and down from the floor with relative ease. Okay? Let me know if you are interested in coming. I hope so! Bring your friends & family too!